Trolls, Engagement and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: 5 Things We Learned at SXSW 2017

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by Jessica Bedussi

 

Each year, advertisers, brands and technologists flock to SXSW for sessions and parties. In the midst of all the free booze, BBQ and endless amounts of swag are a lot of really smart people with really smart things to say, offering attendees new ways to think about advertising, social media, technology and platforms.

 

Here are 5 tidbits from SXSW we’re taking home with us:

 

  • Don’t go after engagement just for engagement’s sake

 

The days of text-only Facebook posts, forums, and organic reach are long gone in the social media realm. This doesn’t mean authenticity has gone with them. Consumers can and will call out brands pushing inauthentic messaging or grabbing for likes and shares. During, “Contemporary Curation: How Imagery Shapes a Brand,” David Moon of BazaarVoice put it best, “Engagement for engagement’s sake is one of the first flaws in a campaign.” Every post is an opportunity to forge a relationship with a new consumer or create a brand advocate out of a loyal customer. Authenticity and genuineness are essential in both reactive and proactive content.

 

 

  • Don’t feed the trolls unless you have something to shut them up

 

Trolls are anyone who positively or negatively affects the norms of a social community. If you’re a community manager, you are most likely familiar with the effects of trolling. During the “Trolls: To Feed or Not to Feed” panel, Alicia Trost, Communications Manager for Bay Area Rapid Transit shared two questions her team asks when deciding whether or not to engage with trolls:

  • Do we have an answer?
  • Can we add value or offer a resolution?

Shining a spotlight on a troll with a copy/paste answer or wishy-washy response will only feed him or her more. The only way to neutralize a troll is with facts and humanized responses.

 

 

  • 65% of consumers watch TV heads down

 

During “This is Your Brain. This is Your Brain on Ads,” neuroscientist Dr. Manuel Garcia-Garcia stated 65% of consumers are heads down on mobile devices while watching TV. Second screen extensions and live coverage of televised events can be an essential way to connect with your audience via social. Knowing viewers are often distracted by the second screen can be discouraging for TV advertisers, but there’s a silver lining: it can help them create more commanding TV ads.  Dr. Garcia-Garcia recommends an attention-grabbing sound that snaps users’ attention back to the first screen.

 

 

  • Experiential gets attention at festivals

 

Along with digital activations, brands capitalized on real-world events, and attendees flocked to brand activations throughout the conference. HBO set up elaborate “Escape” games for a variety of its programming. Casper offered bookable napping rooms complete with Casper mattresses and cookies & milk. AMC set up a pop-up Los Pollos Hermanos restaurant to promote “Better Call Saul.” Hulu creeped everyone out with dozens of handmaids roaming downtown Austin to promote “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

 

 

  • “Echo chambers” is the new buzzword

 

Each year has a buzzword or phrase. This year, it was “echo chambers.” It seemed like in nearly every session someone referenced the idea of online bubbles, where our own opinions and ideas are reflected back to us as a result of social media algorithms. While many cited Brexit and Trump’s election as negative effects of this phenomena, others offered solutions to fix the problem. During “Echo Chambers: Healing our Social Media Algorithms,” Claire Woodcock offered Netflix recommendations as a shining example of how to introduce users to different content with similarities. The idea is to find themes in content and then use those themes to position a different viewpoint in a way that is still appealing to users. Overall, it’s clear both media companies and the advertising industry are thinking of ways to burst these bubbles and widen our perspectives.
What did you find surprising/interesting/shocking at #SXSW this year?

 


This is Your Brain. This is Your Brain on Ads. How Neuroscience affects Advertising.

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by Jessica Bedussi

There’s no better way to entice a group of advertisers than with a “This is your brain on…” joke. This is exactly how I ended up in one of my favorite #SXSW sessions where two neuroscientists, Dr. Manuel Garcia-Garcia (Advertising Research Foundation) & Dr. Aaron Reid (Sentient Science Center), and Pranav Yadav, CEO of Neuro-Insight US, discussed the “non-conscious” decision-making of consumer purchasing behavior.

I scoured through my 8 pages of notes from the session and picked the most jaw-dropping statistics to share.

 

Only 38 percent of campaigns use creative customized for each platform

It sounds like common sense, but common sense is very often ignored. Dr. Garcia-Garcia shared the results of a Millward Brown study that the neural pathway to great creative is cross platform, with a unified message, and custom execution on each platform.

While cohesive campaign messaging is essential, users consume content differently depending on where they are. The enrapturing effect of a TVC is lost when viewed within the Facebook NewsFeed. In fact, a study showed that the same spot on TV and mobile was 50 percent less emotionally engaging to consumers viewing on mobile.

Each social platform has distinct audiences, capabilities, and community rules. The easiest way to shoot a creative campaign in the foot is to plaster the same creative on every platform with no customization.

 

95 percent of consumers say ads don’t affect their decisions

LOL. Most of the effects of advertising happen within the subconscious, meaning the everyday consumer believes they’re immune to advertising’s influence. This explains why emotional advertising can be effective.

As Dr. Reid put it, “We don’t want to know how you feel about an ad, we want to know how an ad makes you feel about a brand.”

 

Long-term memory encoding is the most important factor in predicting purchase intent

Layman’s terms: People are more likely to buy what you’re selling if they can recall your brand long-term.

One of the most crucial ways to do this is to align your brand with your target audience’s core values. It’s simple: People like brands they can relate to.

Above this is a simple reminder: Know your audience.

Individual brains respond to ads differently. Yadav recalled Mountain Dew’s 2016’s Puppy Monkey Baby Super Bowl spot as a prime example. Women overwhelmingly responded negatively to the spot, but males aged 18-35 (the brand’s target audience) loved the commercial and brand.

Neuroscience research is an important and fascinating element of advertising.

TL;DR: Customize creative for each platform, connect emotionally, and know your target audience.


Echo Chambers: The Phrase on Everyone’s Lips at #SXSW 2017

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by Jessica Bedussi

SXSW 2017 is upon us, which means thousands of advertisers, techies, and industry thought leaders swarm to Austin, Texas for “nerd Spring Break.”

 

While there are dozens of panels ranging from the future of Snapchat to the effects of VR — and even one where the attendees watch a grown man eat chicken for an hour — one buzzword kept leaving people’s lips: echo chambers. Whether it was Imgur’s founder, Alan Schaaf, discussing the lack of an echo chamber in his community, behavioral scientists blaming cookies (not the fun kind) for the phenomenon, or neuroscientists describing the effects on our brains, the term seemed to be omnipresent.

 

One of the more valuable sessions on echo chambers was from Claire Woodcock, a digital strategist at Razorfish London, who took the buzzword a step further by analyzing its origin, effects and potential solutions.

 

What exactly is an echo chamber?

If you work in social media advertising, algorithms have most likely kept you awake since 2010, when Facebook introduced its newsfeed algorithm Edgerank. Since then, this mathematical formula has evolved into a machine-learning algorithm that prioritizes and presents content to users based on a list of factors like what they have engaged with, what groups they’re a part of and other macro factors like the type of content Facebook is prioritizing at the moment.

 

All this means that Facebook users are given a narrow view of the world that reinforces their existing values and beliefs. We start to exist in online communities where we shout our opinions and have the same ideas reflected back to us. We don’t have to deal with disagreements or differing points of view. This doesn’t seem like a bad idea, but when we realize 62% of people get their news from social media and 28 percent of those people use it as their main source, the idea becomes much more sinister.

 

How are echo chambers made?

Facebook uses their algorithm to learn what you like and what you don’t like. Woodcock put this in relatable terms with examples of cute puppies and kittens. For instance, let’s say you’re a dog person. You scroll through your NewsFeed and see this cute photo of a pug and give it a like.

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You continue browsing your NewsFeed and see a photo of a cat. Cats don’t excite you so you keep scrolling until you stumble upon another cute dog photo. This one is so cute it deserves a comment. *hearteye emoji*

Facebook takes these actions and learns you like dogs and continues to give you exactly what you want. The platform decides you prefer dogs to cats and stops showing you images of cats knowing you most likely won’t engage with them.

 

This is where the echo chamber starts to form. You’re not exposed to cats or cat people anymore and are instead living in a bubble where dogs, and those who love them, are the only things that matter.

 

Put this into today’s terms and it’s much easier to understand why some people were so surprised when Brexit or Trump’s election occurred and how fake news has become so rampant. When someone who dislikes Obama sees several reputable articles they disagree with, the Facebook algorithm can prioritize a fake news site with similar negative sentiment. Since this individual already dislikes Obama, it’s much easier for this to seem like a reputable source.

 

We start to exist in a polarizing world where truth doesn’t matter — what matters is being right. We stop talking to each other. We stop learning different perspectives. And everything that makes public discourse so important and valuable starts to go away. As Woodcock put it, “social media is a disruptive communications technology.”

Who do we blame and how do we solve it?

It’s Facebook’s fault, right? Not entirely. This problem is much more widespread than that, and solving it will require more than just Facebook tweaking its algorithm.

 

What needs to happen is more opinion diversity so we’re all exposed to different perspectives and opinions.

 

Woodcock proposed that Facebook take a page from Netflix. To get users out of their comfort zone, Netflix finds themes in content that users view and suggests different media with similar themes. For instance, after watching “Chef’s Table,” Netflix recommends I watch “Abstract: the Art of Design.” The real world example given during the session was to show a conservative news story that appeals to both conservatives and liberals. Instead of a polarizing headline like “Mexicans are coming for our jobs,” the language is massaged so liberals are more likely to click on the link: “What makes crossing the border appealing for Mexicans?”

 

The idea is to slowly and subtly introduce different viewpoints into the NewsFeed instead of regurgitating the same thoughts and ideas.

 

We can point fingers and place blame all we want, but we can all agree: something must be done to burst these bubbles.
How do you think we can solve the echo chamber problem?


MH Launches Effort for Clover Sonoma

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When most people think of Sonoma County, they think of wine. 

California dairy brand Clover Sonoma, based in Sonoma County, recently rebranded from its old name, Clover Stornetta.

We wanted people to rethink Sonoma county, so our work for the brand, launching today, recasts Sonoma not as wine country, but as milk country, by cleverly poking fun at typical wine advertising and snobbery.

Our work will include outdoor, digital videos, banner ads, print ads, digital radio and paid social ads, along with organic social content.

Check out Creativity’s story on the work.


Ways Of Seeing

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by Chin Lu

 

In 1972, British author John Berger co-produced a BBC four-part series called “Ways of Seeing.” These TV programs created quite a stir at the time: Challenging the almost religious mystification of famous Western art, calling out misogyny in paintings and modern advertisements, and exploring what the reproduction of art and reality through photography mean. Soon the influential series was turned into a book—serving as an introductory art history or media studies textbook for many students around the world, including me.

In short, Berger urged each one of us to carefully view and think critically about the images we consume, whether it’s the historical symbolism in a Renaissance tableau hanging at the museum, the post-production manipulation of a print ad in a lifestyle magazine, or the legitimacy of a photograph in an online publication.

Earlier this year, Berger passed away at the age of 90 (RIP), but his work is still highly important: A picture is worth a thousand words, and in this current era of fake news and alternative facts, critical analysis of imagery is more crucial than ever.

Our strategy team revisited Berger by watching the TV programming in the span of a few weeks as a tribute. It was a great reminder of our responsibilities as professionals in the industry formerly known as advertising.

More and more consumers are demanding authenticity in advertisements: For example, there’s an increasing need and desire to see realistic imagery of products on “real women” instead of Photoshopped images of models with rare proportions—And they sell better, too! And for brands deciding to participate in cause marketing, they should expect to publicly provide transparency on how the company is walking its talk with action and internal changes.

Art is always political, and Berger taught us to contemplate the intentions of the image’s creator when viewing work, including ads. While I’m glad to see the recent increase of female empowerment in “femvertising,” it’s worth repeating again and again that diversity of representation both in front and behind the camera every step of the process is crucial for producing work that actually resonates with the changing population and mindsets of America: whose story is it to tell, who gets to tell the story, and who profits from the story are all factors that can no longer afford to be considered as afterthoughts in this politically significant time.

 


The Outline Is Making Visual, Interactive Content and Ads for a ‘Post-Text’ Internet, from Adweek

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The Outline Is Making Visual, Interactive Content and Ads for a ‘Post-Text’ Internet (excerpt from story that originally ran on Adweek)

“We’re creating content for a psychographic, not a demographic,” said Amanda Hale, CRO of The Outline, a 2-month-old news site meant to serve an “underfed” online audience.

That target psychographic is more than just what the media tends to brush off as “millennials,” said Hale.

According to founder Josh Topolsky, instead of creating content with the idea of a broad, millennial audience in mind, they try to create pieces for people who “start conversations more than they just sit back and add to them.”  The goal is to discover “what matters, by building a meaningful voice with honest storytelling,” said Topolsky, whose previous online success stories include co-founding The Verge and Vox Media.

The Outline’s overall design aesthetic and philosophy is about “not getting stuck in the grooves in the industry,” he said.

“Online storytelling has evolved, but it might be worse from a brand perspective right now,” said Hale.

The Outline, according to Hale, is focused on making “more visual, post-text, bite-sized content,” and wants to extend that same feeling to their ad partners.

“Our current campaigns feel similar to what The Outline was already looking like,” said Eric Perko, the head of media for MUH-TAY-ZIK|HOF-FER, the agency that represented Method. “They’re poppy and playful, and we could see that our material would make a good match with The Outline.”

Perko and his team paid attention to Topolsky’s career trajectory, especially when his next career move became somewhat of a mystery ahead of The Outline’s December debut.

“We were confident he’d be able to launch this successfully, thanks to his track record,” said Perko. “But there’s always an inherent risk when you go with something unproven.”

To Perko, it’s important for brands to support new media companies that try something new, different and innovative because “you have to have the diligence to figure out what will be successful.”

According to The Outline, ads on its site receive a click-through rate, on average, of 25 times the industry average; the site also sees around 13 times the industry average of engagement rates on its ads. Readers of the site have even expressed their appreciation for the ad designs on Twitter.

Read the full story here.

 

 

 


This Week In Social: And The Winner Is

 

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Let’s back up for the two of you who may have missed what happened Sunday night. In a historic turn of events, Oscar presenters announced the wrong winner. At least it wasn’t the biggest announcement, like the last award of the night for Best Picture. Oh, wait, it was? Oops. 

And just like that, the Moonlight crew lost their big moment. The film’s win will always have an asterisk denoting the historical blunder. 

If 2004 taught the country about the hanging chad, it seems 2017 will teach us how many envelopes exist off stage for Oscar categories, how easy it is for a presenter to walk in front of the mic with the wrong envelope, question that the information is not correct, proceed forward with unwavering confidence, and finally announce a film that didn’t actually win. 

Twitter came out of this as the real winner of the evening with its memes and reactions. This serves as a nice reminder of why the social media platform is still important during live events.

 


eMarketer’s Digital Video Advertising Best Practices

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eMarketer released 2017 Best Practices for Digital Video. Full report here.

Key Stat: Led by especially strong momentum in mobile video, US digital video ad spending will grow at double-digit rates every year through 2020, culminating a total of $17.95 billion at that time.

15 tips:

  1. Buy Audience First
  2. Refine Targeting
  3. Refine Metrics
  4. Use Third-Party Verification
  5. Stop Making Digital Ads from TV Scraps
  6. Tailor Ad Formats to Platforms, Devices, and Content
  7. Keep Video Ads Short, and Brand Early and Often
  8. Personalize It
  9. Convey Authenticity
  10. Pick the Right Time and Place to Go Live
  11. Tread Carefully with Messaging Apps
  12. Use Video to Drive Performance
  13. Get Smart About Fighting Fraud
  14. Fight Ad Blocking with Good Ad Experiences
  15. If It’s Too Good to Be True …

Get the full report here.


2017 Academy Awards Post Low Ratings

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Despite the fail of incorrectly awarding Best Picture, one of the biggest live blunders and social media moments in history (more below), the 2017 Academy Awards posted the smallest 18-49 ratings in at least two decades.

32.9 million viewers watched the 89th Annual Academy Awards, according to Nielsen. It’s the second lowest-rated Academy Awards telecast since 1974, which is as far back as Nielsen telecast data goes. 

The show was poised to do well. 2017 was a great year for film and the political climate set the stage for some big moments.

It started strong and had a number of noteworthy moments. Kimmel’s opening monologue (watch here) got political and many brands including Walmart, Cadillac and The New York Times invested in custom spots for the show. Rolex had a spot (which featured Bill Paxton whose death was announced earlier in the day – watch here) celebrating film and the watch brand’s role in cinema over the years.


MH Sounds: January 2017

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This month’s music post is a little late. It took us so long to post because, honestly, we’re sad. We’re ashamed. We’re better than this. We had to recheck the data a few times, do some clean exports, and point a few fingers via Slack. John Mayer was our most listened to artist of January.

JOHN MAYER?

John Mayer.

THAT John Mayer?

There are a few stages of grief. It feels like we’ve finally reached acceptance. Maybe not—this isn’t acceptable.

To be fair to the agency, these plays happened in what seems to be an isolated incident that took place one night and was contained to one floor, but we aren’t making excuses. We know it was wrong.

 

1 – Please still like us. 

2 – The XX Put everything on hold, except for this album. 

3 – The Rolling Stones They were the number 6 played artist for all of 2016, and are holding steady for 2017.

4 – The Weeknd He’s the mother f*ckin starboy and we don’t even mind the typo is his name.  

5 – Hot Chip Whether it’s 2006 or 2017, over and over, we’re ready for the floor.